Coming of Age
Ernest Dawkins – Alto saxophone
Isaiah Collier – Tenor saxophone
Alexis Lombre – Piano
James Wentzel – Bass
Jeremiah Collier – Drums
In addition to being an accomplished saxophonist and groundbreaking composer, Ernest Dawkins is also a one-of-a-kind educator. A stalwart of the Chicago cultural scene, Dawkins founded the nonprofit Live The Spirit Residency. The goal of the organization is to encourage and mentor young, promising musicians and to share improvised music with the economically disadvantaged neighborhoods.
Coming of Age documents the work of four superbly talented Dawkins protégés who together are known as The Young Masters Quartet. Inspired by tragic events in the community, various members of the ensemble penned the nine originals that constitute this stimulating album.
Pianist Alexis Lombre’s powerful and stirring “Blues in Tyne” opens the disc on a high note. Lombre, who also wrote the succinct and erudite liner essay, takes center stage with an intricate and multi-faceted performance that embellishes her own composition with surprising maturity and fiery eloquence. Saxophonist Isaiah Collier alternates passionate and raw circular phrases with Dawkins. Collier’s vibrato-filled brassy tenor admirably contrasts and complements Dawkins’ fluid, sophisticated alto.
Collier and Dawkins echo one another in an operatic duet on bassist James Wentzel’s cinematic “Racing Minds.” Their lilting refrains flow gracefully over drummer Jeremiah Collier’s exacting martial beats. The two saxophonists share the spotlight as they simultaneously mirror each other and follow divergent paths. The intriguing dialogue melts into the riotous group melee that ends the piece with a reserved dramatic flair.
Wentzel solos with melancholic lyricism on Isaiah Collier’s haunting “Before You Go,” the wistful, yet uplifting tune dedicated to the memory of Collier’s classmate who was murdered in 2014. Over Jeremiah Collier’s thundering kit and crashing cymbals and Wentzel’s deep, dark reverberations, Lombre improvises with ardent intensity and ethereal melodic sense. Collier’s soulful wails add a spiritual edge to the track.
Thanks to Dawkins, these musical gifts of a new generation are nurtured. They in turn infuse the tradition with a refreshing exuberance that keeps it contemporary and timeless. Coming of Age is a result of this, ensuring jazz’s longevity and relevance.